I’ve had chicken pie probably close to 80 times in my life. This was my grandmother’s first-call recipe when cooking for family. The smoothness of the soft chicken and creamy rice in broth, paired with powdery, crunchy brown biscuits is divine in its simplicity.
As you’re reading this, you might be wondering why it’s called a pie. I have no good answer. Nobody else in my family does, either. It’s most certainly not a pie. A pie has a pastry crust. Pie crusts flake. The crust on this thing does not. So even though the chicken pie name has been around for close to four generations, maybe it’s time for a change.
It’s hard to find an acceptable alternative. Unlike a pie, this dish has biscuits baked on top, so really it’s more like a cobbler. But would you eat chicken cobbler? It’s not a casserole either, as there’s no velouté that binds the meat and starch together—in fact, the only dairy is in the milk in the biscuits. Calling it chicken and biscuits makes it too similar to a fried chicken on a biscuit sandwich or the criminally underrated Chicken in a Biskit cracker.
I propose Chicken “Not” Pie, a tip of the hat to its closest relation, chicken pot pie, which it is also not, although both have a crusty top, meat, and smooth filling, served piping hot. The absence of the pastry crust, veggies, and gravy disqualify Chicken “Not” Pie from being a pot pie. The word order makes sense too: “Chicken Pie, Not!” is a hair too Wayne’s World.
Okay, enough semantics. This is a dish that can take a few tries to perfect, and it works better if you go by “feel” than it does with rote instructions. But there are a few keys:
- Err on the side of too much broth; don’t take it into soup territory, but rather make sure that your stock covers the rice and chicken prior to fully heating. Both the biscuits and the rice are competing for moisture.
- Don’t cook the biscuits at the listed temperature on the box (typically 450 degrees Fahrenheit), but rather at 25-50 degrees less. This is to ensure the underside of the biscuits cooks completely, and you avoid any unpleasant doughy bites.
- Lastly, this dish can take on a good amount of salt. I’d suggest salting the stock as it cooks, and then to taste after preparing.
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Chicken “Not” Pie
Makes 8-12 servings
- 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs.
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 onion
- 1½ cups long grain white rice
- Pancake/baking mix, enough to make 16 biscuits (I use Bisquick, as it has a drop biscuit recipe on the side of the box)
Put chicken in a pot with about 2½ quarts (10 cups) of water, add the carrots, celery, onion, and a few pinches of salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid and set aside. Strain the stock and return to the pot.
Cook the rice in 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook on very low heat for 15 minutes. After the rice is done, shred the chicken with clean hands or two forks.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts), combine the chicken, about three quarters of the rice, and the chicken stock. The stock should just cover the chicken and rice mixture, but remember, a little too much liquid is okay, as the rice and biscuits will sop most of it up.
Place the pot in the oven and cook until the liquid starts to bubble, usually about 20-30 minutes. While it’s cooking, prepare the biscuit mix per the package instructions. I typically double the recipe on the side of the box.
Once the chicken and rice mixture is bubbling, remove from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Drop the biscuits on top of the rice and chicken mixture, using two spoons to form the biscuits. Cook until the biscuit tops are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Butter the biscuits as you see fit.